Do I Still Need to Pay Child Support During COVID-19 Closures and Quarantines?
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted most aspects of our lives. It’s no surprise it’s created questions and problems for parents dealing with child support and custody issues. Courts are taking the following position: A court order entered before the COVID-19 crisis is still enforceable unless it is modified. If you are able to pay, payments should be made as usual through Pennsylvania’s online payment system known as PACSES.
If you are unable to make payments, partial payments may be an option until you can have your order retroactively modified when the courts are finally reopened. To preserve the date of retroactivity, you should file for modification to your order through the same online system accessible at www.childsupport.state.pa.us.
If you do not have access to a computer, you should file your request for modification within 30 days of the reopening of the support filing office, and your modification may be designated retroactive to the date of the event that preceded your inability to pay.
It is imperative all changes and issues be documented through the online system even if you have an amicable relationship with your ex-spouse. If you pay through the PACSES system, an informal support modification agreement between you and your ex is not sufficient to stop the usual order from ticking on the system, and incurring arrears each month you are behind.
It’s great to communicate. We encourage it, of course, but an agreement with your spouse is not legally binding in the PACSES computer system. The state and federal governments won’t be lenient regarding enforcement even if the parties are, especially so if the recipient receives public assistance. The latest information released from Pennsylvania courts indicates enforcement measures such as seizing bank accounts and increased wage attachments will be temporarily suspended; while the interception of IRS refunds as well as the payment of stimulus checks will not.
Additionally, while helping your ex stock up on toilet paper, disinfectant and nonperishable groceries to get your kids through the days of home schooling and social distancing is a nice gesture, these efforts won’t count toward the requirements of your child support order. It can’t hurt, however, to keep records of all supplies purchased to show you made some attempt at meeting your support obligation in the event you find yourself at a contempt hearing.
Truly, you are better off sending the money through the PACSES portal, however small the amount. If that is not possible, pay by check, or pay by cash and have the recipient sign a recipient, which you can then use to correct your account once things are back to full operation.
For more information on COVID-19 child support and custody issues, check out this interview on KDKA-Radio 1020AM.
Our team of family law attorneys is working remotely and able to answer calls and emails during the mandated virtual office enforcement due to COVID-19. Feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (412) 471-9000 for further clarification.
Candice L. Komar, founding partner of Pollock Begg, is a strong litigator, trained mediator and collaborative law attorney who often deals with divorces involving closely held businesses, complex issues and high net worth individuals. A fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers and recognized by local and national awards programs for her business sense and family law leadership, particularly in collaborative law, Candice is also often tapped by media to discuss hard-hitting custody and divorce cases.